The Islamic State has retreated towards Raqqa, Syria, the self-declared capital of its Caliphate, as Syrian forces gain ground in Aleppo, according to several reports.
Two weeks ago, the Islamic State “cut the Aleppo supply line” and captured Khanasser from the Syrian Army. But the army managed to grab it back with the help of Russian forces and eliminated many Islamic State fighters.
Kremlin propaganda site Sputnik News and Iranian Fars news agency boasted of the victory: “Also on Thursday, government forces and volunteer troops retook five villages near the town of Khanasser in the north of the province leaving dozens of Daesh militants killed and wounded and their vehicles and military hardware destroyed.”
The Islamic State has held Raqqa since 2014 when they stormed through Syria.
Last month, media outlets reported that Syrian forces loyal to dictator Bashar al-Assad moved closer to Raqqa. Russia supports them from the air; forces from Iran and Hezbollah provide troops on the ground.
“It is an indication of the direction of coming operations towards Raqqa,” explained an anonymous source. “In general, the Raqqa front is open … starting in the direction of the Tabqa area.”
One of the airstrikes killed Amr al-Absi, the senior Islamic State operative responsible for some of the most brutal murders of Westerners, in Aleppo. Some believe he brought in many defectors from the al-Qaeda-linked group Jabhat al-Nusra in late 2013. The Telegraph reports:
Under Absi’s watch, abduction on the road into Aleppo city became a grave risk for any Westerner who risked the journey.
The jihadist is understood to have overseen the kidnapping or purchase of a number of journalists and aid workers, among them the American reporter James Foley and British taxi driver Alan Henning, whose videotaped murders Emwazi would later become famous as ‘Jihadi John.’
Saudi Arabia has sent ground troops and fighters to Turkey to prepare for a “possible ground invasion of Syria.”
“Saudi Arabia declared its determination against Daesh (the Arabic term for Isis) by saying that they were ready to send both jets and troops,” stated Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu. “At every coalition meeting we have always emphasised the need for an extensive result-oriented strategy in the fight against the Daesh terrorist group. If we have such a strategy, then Turkey and Saudi Arabia may launch an operation from the land.”
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said the kingdom’s moves could produce another world war.
“A ground operation draws everyone taking part in it into a war,“ he said. “The Americans and our Arab partners must consider whether or not they want a permanent war.”